Something is lost in this expansion of choice. By taking songs as they came, by abandoning choice and denying whatever momentary passion came over me, I realized that my experience was richer. I wasn't bored. I was more attentive. I discovered a richness in songs that at first I wanted to skip. I enjoyed the surprise of hearing what was next. I enjoyed the restfulness of not choosing. Some oft-skipped bit of progressive rock on Yes's Fragile CD needed to be savored, not skipped on the way to the immediately captivating "Roundabout."
It's a great lesson for life, this shuffling through, if I allow it. I don't have to have my way. I need not make a choice. What if, when I go to a restaurant, I just tell the server to bring me his or her favorite dish, if I tell them to just "surprise me?" I might try that sometime. What if rather than trying to be right in every discussion I just let someone else be "right," if I just let them "win?" What if, rather than avoiding an office mate by not walking by their office, I just walk by their office and see what happens? What if rather than attempting to carefully control the events of my day I just accept what comes, savor it, learn from it, and pray through it. It's not fatalism, as choice cannot be escaped, but it is a long restfulness and acceptance that likely will bring greater enjoyment of the moment.In the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life, one has a sense of a man who moved in the direction of his calling, ultimately a calling requiring his death, but one who responded to the need of the moment, to the person he beheld. When the woman touched the hem of his robe, he stopped and addressed her. Though weary, when the crowds sought him out, he was there for them. Though sleeping, he awoke at his disciples' insistence to calm a storm. Though omnipotent and sovereign, he refused to pull rank and flatten those who would crucify him. Though a man with a mission, he accepted what came because life on shuffle was, in the end, just life on God's time.
G.K. Chesterton, one of the most quotable of men, once said that "Self-denial is the test and definition of self-government." By having so many choices, by not having to deny ourselves much, we become slaves of our passions, both the relatively benign ones like what song I will listen to next to the more dangerous ones like what food I will eat (gluttony) or who I will sleep with (sexual immorality). Market economies and liberal democracies thrive on the notion that an expansion of choice is always good, that having what I want when I want it is always good. It's not. In the end, self-government is, in God's economy, an agent of freedom and enjoyment. Limiting choice can lead to a greater enjoyment of what we have. The notion that I don't have to have what I can have is a freeing thought.
I'm just going to put life on shuffle. I'm just going to see what happens next.